mjj (flemmings) wrote,

The Idea of the House

Rolled down to the AGO on a honey-warm afternoon quite prepared to be cooled down by Lawren Harris' chilly abstract mountains. Harris' landscapes are Canadian iconic but not a patch on Sohlberg's by me. Besides, I'm not one for pure landscape. Almost all the paintings I own have houses in them, which is what I prefer.

Thus I was pleased and surprised to be greeted by two rooms of Toronto streetscapes and houses: Harris' paintings of the rundown, downtown, area once called The Ward. Much of the area is now occupied by the new City Hall and the Eaton Centre: parts of it used to be an adjunct of the old Eaton's, and a lot of manufacturing went on amid its one-storey listing shacks. Once a largely black community, just before WW1 it became home to a wave of immigrants from East Europe (mostly Jewish) and China, who established the first Chinatown on Dundas.

The exhibit contains photographs of the Ward's houses, or shacks, most of them taken in winter with the snow piled high and grey by the back doors,* next to Harris' paintings of same. I can't seem to find any of these online, but it suggests that Albert Franck got the idea of painting the backs of Toronto houses from Harris. (You can see an example here if you scroll down far enough. At least I *think* it's the back of the house. This is also a later painting when he'd started to clean up his snow, under the influence of the non-urban snow found north of Superior.) Online Harris houses are all of the fronts, and a little googling suggests that the 'absence of human beings' thing seriously doesn't apply to his city works.

* Goss' photographs are very Skin of a Lion and thus yuck; but I observe that Kendal and Walmer, 1920, looks exactly the same today.
Tags: art, place

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